Eating papaya seeds by the spoonful to help get rid of parasites is the latest TikTok trend, but doctors are hesitant to confirm if this practice has proven health benefits. Here's why. Parasites are a common infectious agent, in fact, 3.7 million people in the United States are affected, according to the CDC.

Parasites are tiny, microscopic organisms that live on or inside another organism (the host) and can cause harm if they are the intestines, but over time they will adapt to the host's body and lifestyle. One common example that can wreak havoc on your intestinal system is giardia, which causes diarrhea and can take years to get rid of. (It often comes from drinking unfiltered water from a stream or lake and it's why people use charcoal filters when camping or hiking.) Medical experts urge you to seek a doctor's advice if you experience ongoing diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or worms in your stool, which could be the result of parasites. But to see the trend n TikTok, people are seeking natural remedies including eating papaya seeds.

Eating papaya seeds to treat or get rid of parasites is trending, but does it work?

Some people believe they found the natural remedy for treating parasites and alleviating the common symptoms by eating the seeds of the tropical papaya fruit. The remedy involves simply scooping a spoonful of seeds, chewing on them and swallowing them, and then reporting on the results a few hours later on social media.

For example, TikTok influencer @ramenasaidwow (who notes in her bio that she is not a medical professional), showed herself eating the seeds and described them as tasting like "dry-erase marker" and "disgusting." She posted a second video later that night and explained that she couldn't eat, felt nauseous, and had two parasites (in the form of grey-colored worms) come out of her body and wriggle in her stools (sorry for the overshare).

Some experts warn against trying to use papaya seeds to get rid of any potential parasites because for one thing, there is a lack of studies that show papaya seeds are an effective treatment to prevent or get rid of parasites, and also because eating too many papaya seeds may result in an upset stomach.

For example, TikTok user Jennifer Fijor (also known as @gutgalz ) who is a registered nurse specializing in gastroenterology, created her own TikTok video, voicing her opinion on this trendy topic. "It is to my knowledge that none of these [study subjects] have been proven to be actual parasitic infections based on stool studies." Meaning there is a lack of scientific evidence that indicates the subjects ever had parasites in the first place.

Fijor pointed out the 2007 study published by the Journal of Medical Food that evaluated 60 children, half of them ate papaya seeds with honey and the other half (placebo group) ate honey alone. After seven days, the results showed that the group given the papaya seeds with honey had their stools cleared of parasites, compared to the group given honey who didn't see any changes. The study concludes: "Air-dried papaya seeds are efficacious in treating human intestinal parasites and without significant side effects."

However, Fijor noted that the subjects evaluated in the study had "asymptomatic" stools and added, "the seeds weren't raw" but air-dried. So there is a discrepancy between the available research and the trend of eating raw papaya seeds for parasite purposes. Papaya seeds are high in fiber, which may cause bowel movements, Fijor points out, which for some people may cause confusion if TikTokers have upset stomachs and assume these are due to parasitic symptoms.

Pregnant Women Should Not Eat Unripe Papaya or Its Seeds

There is sound science around the study of under-ripe green papaya and papaya seeds prompting pregnant women to have contractions, which can be dangerous if the pregnancy is not near full term. Research has been done on the different ways that the unripe fruit and the seeds can cause fertility problems.

According to one study, the extract of papaya seeds "caused antifertility, anti-implantation, by a reduction in progesterone level, disruption of oestrus pattern and histological alteration of utero-ovarian tissue," the authors wrote in conclusion.

Unripe or green papaya contains high levels of what's called papaya latex, a milky liquid that can be potentially harmful to pregnant women since it has been known to lead to uterine contractions. So if you are either pregnant or trying to get pregnant, doctors warn you to not eat papaya, according to a different study.

Bottom Line: Check with your doctor before eating papaya seeds for parasites

There is limited data when it comes to proving papaya seeds to be effective in preventing or getting rid of parasites in the body. Check with your doctor if you're experiencing the symptoms of parasites before trying this natural remedy. Also, be aware of the negative effects of eating papaya seeds on fertility and pregnancy.

For more great content about how to live your healthiest, check out the Health & Nutrition stories on The Beet.